Thursday, June 19, 2008

The danger in my pantry.

So, a fairly innocuous bag of mush has been making the rounds among my friends. Amish Friendship Bread starter. Have you heard of it? Have you tried it? This baggie of mush is kind of high maintenance, requiring stirring every day (no metal spoons, please) and then feeding every five days. Once it starts fermenting you must make sure your little baggie doesn't rupture as gases inflate it. My friend T called me up one day and offered me some. She brought over a sample of the signature recipe that goes with every baggie of mush.

I am sceptical as to the authenticity of an *Amish* recipe that calls for a box of instant pudding, but the bread was tasty and I am always up for trying new things in the kitchen. I have been tending and feeding the starter for almost a month now and have tried quite a few recipes with it. I have more in mind. I have found some fantastic recipes that don't call for pudding mix. (Well, ok, one does...but it is really good!)

I talked to a few of my friends about this mush. Apparently this mush can also come with quite a lot of baggage. My friend M told me that a co-worker gave her some. M moved and threw the mush out because she couldn't tend to it in the midst of packing and unpacking. Her friend found out and quit speaking to her for six months. My friend C had some and got a little emotionally involved in keeping it alive. She started to feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of this stuff and keeping it under control. She started calling it Amish Guilt Bread. She is not the only one. My friend A calls hers a "bag of guilt".

Have we lost sight of what is important here? Are these little baggies becoming too emotionally charged? Do we mean to hand out bags of guilt when we thought we were giving out bags of friendship? The rules that come with these bags are quite regimented. It is almost like you are giving out a pet instead of an ingredient in a recipe. I broke the rules. I baked on Day two of the cycle. My mush is still alive. I didn't cause a tear in the space-time continuum.

I am being an anarchist and only obeying two rules: "Feed on day five" and "Feed and divide on day ten". I can't make the commitment to baking every 10 days. Summer is here. I may kill this starter when the heat really comes and I can't even look at my oven without sweating. There are only so many pancakes one family can eat.

Clearly this mush is powerful stuff. It can end friendships. It can take over a kitchen. I am trying to be careful with my mush. I only give it out with the expressed permission of the recipient. The only time I give it out as a surprise is in it's already baked form. I have had mine for so long it has moved out of it's baggie into a large plastic container in my pantry. Is it slowly working it's claws into me now? Should I name it? I really hope that when I get tired of this and decide to flush it down the drain T will keep speaking to me. I like to think my friendships are stronger than a baggie of mush.

By the way, if you peeked at my links to recipes and noticed the bread and pancakes call for Herman starter, don't worry. Amish friendship starter works the same way. Substitute it measure for measure.


1 comment:

NiftyNadine said...

I'm quite glad that we had our conversation about the bag of mush because... I messed up... I forgot to feed my bag of mush before I left on my trip to the big city and wouldn't have been able to squish the baggie (AKA stir) while I was away and I came back and chucked my mush :( I feel very saddened at the loss of my mush because I had already looked up recipes and planned out who I intended to offer my mush to, when it came time to divide. May I please have some more mush? I promise that I'll try to be more responsible with it this time!